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30-minute recipe: A healthy French lentil salad with a tangy Dijon dressing. This delicious make-ahead recipe is perfect to serve warm or at room temperature.
I don’t know why lentils are so overlooked. Maybe it’s because of their humble, earthy color and unfortunate relationship to stodgy vegetarian cooking from the last century.
If lentils have gone out of favor in your life for whatever reason, this tasty French green lentil salad will convince you to bring them back into regular rotation!
What are French lentils?
These tiny legumes have a beautiful slate-green color and are sooo great to keep on hand for to add to spur-of-the-moment lentil salad, as well as to use in soups and side dishes.
They have deep, nutty flavor and cook surprisingly quickly, in about 20 minutes.And like most lentils, they’re loaded with nutritious iron, fiber and protein.
Compared to regular green or brown lentils, which can be starchier and cook to more of a mushy puree, French lentils become tender but keep their shape after cooking.
That makes them a perfect addition to healthy lentil salad!
Where to buy French lentils
Buy French lentils online or find them at many large supermarkets.
While some cooks swear by the distinct flavor of true French Le Puy lentils (which are actually grown in the volcanic soil of Puy in France), you can find the same variety of lentils grown right here in the U.S.A — just as delicious and not quite as pricey as imported ones.
And how do lentils taste? Lentils have a pleasantly mild, earthy taste, along with a creamy satisfying texture.
How to cook French lentils
Score another beauty point for these lovely little lentils because unlike other legumes, they don’t need soaking.
- Cook French lentils in water and they’ll be done within 25 minutes.
- In this recipe, the lentils cook with aromatic bay leaf and thyme sprigs for additional flavor.
- Perfect as an easy dinner salad recipe, just toss the lentils with the lemony dressing while they’re warm to ensure they’ll soak up every drop and taste fantastic!
Once you’ve mastered cooking basic lentils, try them in other tasty, nutritious salads such as a Mediterranean-style Black Lentil Salad with Feta recipe.
Simple French Lentil Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups French green lentils, rinsed
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 large thyme sprigs
- Kosher salt
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- ½ red onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 – 3 cups baby spinach leaves
- ½ cup crumbled soft goat cheese or feta cheese
- ¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional
- Make the dressing: Combine the shallot, vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and black pepper to taste in a bowl. Let sit 5 minutes to dissolve the salt, then whisk in the olive oil until blended.
- Put the lentils, bay leaf and thyme sprigs in a 4-6 quart pot along with 2 teaspoons salt and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
- Add the carrots, celery and onion to the lentils and continue cooking 5 – 10 minutes, until the lentils are tender. They will have absorbed most, but not all of the liquid.
- Drain the lentils and transfer back to the pot or to a serving bowl. Pluck out the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and discard. Pour the dressing over and stir to coat. Add the parsley and spinach and stir through.
- Sprinkle the cheese and walnuts over the salad and serve warm or at room temperature.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Serve the salad warm or at room temperature. It keeps beautifully refrigerated for a day or two – just bring to room temperature before serving for the best flavor.
- Omit the cheese to make this a vegan salad.